Isolating, even with someone you both love and like, can be a challenge. Isolating with someone you used to love, and no longer do, is a whole different ball game. For live-in couples who recently decided to end things, the coronavirus pandemic and recommendation for people to stay at home have meant that many are now forced to be alone with the one person they want to see the least. We spoke to five people about the bad, the ugly, and the surprisingly good of being stuck in the same home with your brand-new ex.
Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
“Every single day I am more and more certain that we will be filing for divorce.” – Tammy, 37, Colorado
Back in January, my wife and I, who have been together almost 12 years, had a very hard discussion about separating. We both continued to grow as individuals and instead of growing together as a couple, we just grew further and further apart. Up until this social-distancing period, I had moved out of the apartment and been staying with a friend. But as all of this started to come down, I decided that it was best for me and my health to stay in our apartment, as I’m a cancer survivor and have a compromised immune system. I want to try to have as much control over the spaces I’m in and making sure that they are clean and free of any potential infection.
It’s really challenging when you get into an argument about something and you can’t leave. For example, I had ordered flowers for a colleague who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and had them delivered to her. And she saw the flower-delivery bill on a credit card statement and automatically accused me of seeing somebody. At that point tensions and emotions were already so high that she wouldn’t hear me when I said it wasn’t true. At that point, my defense mechanisms were up — we just know what buttons to push for each other. And we just keep pushing them. We’re in a 1,200-square-foot apartment. So that basically involves her going to the master bedroom and me going into the guest bedroom. And the next morning it was really awkward. No one wants to be the first person to break the silence or say they’re sorry. This tension is constantly there in everything that we do. I left a plate in the sink last night from a late dinner and she left me a Post-it note on the sink that was like, “You’re a grown ass adult, please pick up after yourself.” So, yeah, it’s a little rough. Every single day I am more and more certain that we will be filing for divorce. I would rather be alone right now.
“It’s difficult for my other partner because now he’s alone.” – Yara, 33, New York
My partner Jeff of nine years and I kind of broke up while I was traveling. We had recently decided to open up our relationship, and since then, I have been in a relationship with another man as well, and Jeff broke up with me because he felt I wasn’t really prioritizing him. When I got back from my trip, initially Jeff was going to move out, but it’s so hard to find a place in New York, so we decided to try living together for the time being, with the goal of riding it out until our lease ended. I was kind of like, I have family and friends in the city and we’re gonna make it so that we’re not both home all the time and give each other space. That was the plan.
Obviously, now, it’s not that way at all. As the virus spread throughout the city and forced most people inside, we kind of started to work out our issues a bit and do a trial run of getting back together. It all happened simultaneously. I think right now we’re like, Oh, we both have each other and we’ve been in each other’s lives for so long and it’s really comfortable and easy to talk. And it’s revived some old parts of our relationship and how we initially fell in love. We both play music and have instruments in the house and are playing together for the first time in several years.
Given the situation, we agreed that we should really spend some focused time working on our relationship and not seeing other people right now. He had been going out on Tinder dates and seeing different girls every night, and obviously you can’t do that anymore. Meanwhile, I told my other partner I need some space to focus on my relationship with Jeff right now, though I wasn’t like, “You’re done forever.” It’s difficult for my other partner because now he’s alone and it’s really hard for him. I am the person he would lean on and I feel really guilty. I don’t think this is what he thought he was signing up for. But this isn’t something we could have foreseen.
I feel like I can use this opportunity to reconnect. One of the big problems before was that we were living very separate lives and didn’t have time to connect, and the other was because of my relationship with this other person. I just worry this isn’t real life. While this seems to be working right now, the issues that made him break up with me in the first place aren’t necessarily going away. They have just been put on the shelf for now.
“We can’t even go out for drinks to talk shit about him.” – Lisa, 37, Nebraska
I’m working from home with my 16-month-old child and husband. I found out two weeks ago that my husband of six years had multiple affairs in the last year, most recently with one of my friends. Although I am heartbroken and unable to trust him emotionally, he is still in the house.
Having to live in a space with someone who has disrespected me and lied so extensively, it’s boggling to the mind. I am furious and extremely disappointed with the man that I love. I am so broken when I think about wanting to give him a kiss goodnight, because I need that, but I can’t because I know what he did. It is not an easy space to be in.
I’ve thought a lot about our living situation. The first night after I confronted him he went to a hotel. Since then, he has stayed on the couch and picked up anything that would display the change to our toddler, because we are trying to keep things as consistent as possible. There are moments every day that I think about asking him to leave but I take a step back and realize we can’t afford to do that right now. Afford is a funny word, you know? In this context it refers to everything: financial, work and child-care scheduling, a mental break from the toddler screaming so self-care can happen. We are both working from home, about four feet from one another’s work space with a toddler. We communicate as co-parents and roommates, while waiting to have the relationship conversations until nighttime when the baby is sleeping or in a controlled environment like therapy. Luckily I am well-versed in compartmentalizing, so I am able to live in a space with him and have the ability not to pick up a knife.
One of the hardest things right now is knowing I will not see my friends in person for a long time. The only people I trust right now have to stay six feet away and we can’t even go out for drinks to talk shit about him. That is killing me. And it’s only just begun. Still, amid the chaos that is the world around us right now, and having a toddler that seems to have a changing attitude every two minutes, knowing that my husband is there in some capacity is better than not right now. We are all in this pandemic together. Everyone is struggling with their own issues on top of the uncertainty of the next few months. Mine is a husband that’s cheated.
“It’s very hard for me to make a breakup album if I’m still in the house.” – Britney, 33, U.K.
We were together for five years. The breakup was very natural. It was more about us admitting it. We share a house, which we rent from my partner’s uncle, and we were like, Well, we’ve paid rent for the next month, so there’s no rush. And we’d been planning already for me to move into a friend’s spare room this summer. Then all this happened. My partner has got a really awful immune system. Their doctors say that they’ve got to stay inside. With them having a more compromised situation, I have to be really careful.
The fact that I am now sort of responsible for their health is probably the weirdest part, because part of the reason we broke up was because we decided we really need to learn how to look after ourselves independently. This is the opposite of that.
It’s not been too awful at the moment, because we’re used to spending a lot of time together, we know our boundaries, and we still care for each other. I wouldn’t want to be in this situation with someone else. I think the difficulty will come later on, because obviously this is reinforcing the cohabitation and dependence on each other. I’m worried how much more difficult it will be when we actually have to do the physical separation. A lot of it’s been constantly reassuring our families. Like, my mom is constantly worried that I’m gonna end up thrown out or something. Even my partner’s mom was like, are you sure everything’s okay?
Everyone now is joking about a potential baby boom. I’m a musician and the joke in my circle has been the amount of musical bedroom projects, and I keep saying that it’s very hard for me to make a breakup album if I’m still in the house.
“My commitment was that I would be the caregiver for when he gets the transplant.” – Joan, late 60s, Nevada
We just had our 30th anniversary and had decided right before Thanksgiving 2019 that we were going to split. I knew it would be the best thing for me, though he has had some trouble coming to terms with it. But my husband is on a kidney transplant list, and my commitment was that I would be the caregiver for when he gets the transplant, no matter what. Recently we were contacted by the hospital and told there was a live donor match. And there’s a procedure that my husband needs before he can go ahead with the transplant to optimize everything post- transplant.
And unfortunately, they’re not doing that procedure now because of the virus. So now it’s likely he wouldn’t get the transplant until June earliest.
I’m trying to make each day positive. I think of myself as a glass-half-full person, while my husband is a glass-half-empty kind of person. So I set up my dining room table to work, I have flowers on the table, and I’m just trying to surround myself with as much positivity as I can, to stay in touch with the people in my life and to stay away the news for the most part. Whereas my husband likes to have the news on 24/7. So I compromised so that he could watch for a certain period of each hour.
Nothing’s really changed in the respect of my caring for him. He’s always been very dependent and doesn’t really do a lot for himself. I mean, he’s capable of it, but it’s easier to have somebody else do it. I do most of the cooking. He has learned to make eggs. But the other day I put him to work helping me with some things I had to do, reading out phone numbers to me for some people I had to call, and that was really helpful to me. So we’re finding ways to work together and support each other. We both realize that, you know, this is a tough situation. It’s tough for everybody.